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Book club questions for Starling House by Alix E. Harrow explore the significance of dreams, the blurred line between reality and fantasy, and the courage it takes to confront darkness in search of light and hope.
The questions also unravel the mysteries of Starling House, examining how its history mirrors the characters’ struggles and desires, emphasizing the importance of confronting fears and facing the past to move forward.
This book is a smart, spectacular contemporary Gothic that will leave its roots in you and linger in your dreams. Definitely one of the best books I’ve read this entire year!
Starling House by Alix E. Harrow
In this blog post, you will find thoughtfully crafted discussion questions for Starling House.
For a complete list of Alix E. Harrow books in order, click here!
At the bottom of this post I have also prepared a downloadable PDF version of the book club questions for your personal use, along with some additional suggestions for novels that share similar themes and narratives.
Let me know if you find these book club questions useful. I’m excited to hear your unique perspectives during your book club discussions!
About the Story
Starling House follows the story of Opal, a determined young girl from Eden, Kentucky, who dreams of a mysterious house she has never seen before. Opal, an orphan and high school dropout, dreams of a better life for her and her younger brother Jasper.
The town of Eden is known for two things: bad luck and the enigmatic E. Starling, a reclusive 19th-century author who disappeared long ago, leaving behind dark rumors and a peculiar mansion. Opal, fascinated by Starling’s work, seizes the opportunity to enter Starling House and earn money for her brother’s escape fund.
However, once inside, Opal discovers that sinister forces are at play. The secrets of Starling House are deeper and darker than she ever imagined, and its misanthropic heir, Arthur, is haunted by his own nightmares. As the town of Eden becomes engulfed in its own ghosts, Opal finds herself drawn into a fight against these malevolent forces.
This novel offers a thrilling and eerie tale, blending elements of mystery and fantasy, making it a must-read for those who love stories of haunted houses, buried secrets, and courageous protagonists.
About the Author
She has also written short stories and fairy tale adaptations. Alix has received prestigious awards like the Hugo and British Fantasy Award and has been nominated for several others.
Originally from Kentucky, she now lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with her husband and two lively children. Her literary work is managed by Kate McKean at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency.
Book Club Questions for Starling House
Disclaimer: the following discussion questions contain spoilers, so proceed with caution if you haven’t finished the book yet.
- Opal, a high school dropout, exhibits unwavering determination to improve her and her brother Jasper’s lives. How does her lack of formal education affect her decisions and actions throughout the story? In what ways does her determination shine through despite societal limitations?
- Arthur is portrayed as reclusive, never seen leaving Starling House. How does his seclusion shape his character? What impact does his isolation have on the town’s perception of him, and how does it contribute to the story’s mystery and intrigue?
- Starling House is described as odd, ugly, and filled with secrets. How does the house become a character in its own right? What specific details or events in the house contribute to its eerie and enigmatic atmosphere?
- Opal and Arthur’s relationship undergoes significant development. How does their dynamic evolve from strangers to allies? What pivotal moments or interactions lead to this transformation?
- The theme of family is central to the novel, particularly Opal’s relationship with her brother Jasper. How does their bond influence their decisions and actions? How does family, both biological and chosen, impact the characters’ choices?
- Dreams and nightmares are recurring motifs in the story. How do dreams shape the characters’ perceptions of reality? How does the theme of dreams tie into the overall narrative?
- Eden, Kentucky, is depicted as a town with its share of societal issues. How do these challenges affect the characters’ lives and decisions? Discuss the themes of poverty, discrimination, and social isolation as portrayed in the narrative.
- Opal’s relationship with her brother Jasper is a central focus. How does Opal’s role as a caregiver and protector shape her decisions? How does Jasper’s character contribute to the story’s emotional depth?
- The concept of found family is explored through various characters in the book. Identify instances where characters form bonds outside of biological relationships. How do these found family dynamics impact the characters’ sense of belonging and security?
- Opal challenges traditional gender roles and societal expectations. How does her character challenge gender norms? In what ways does the story empower female characters, and how do they navigate the constraints of their time and society?
- Harrow’s descriptive writing sets the tone for the story. Discuss specific passages or scenes where the atmosphere is particularly vivid or evocative. How does the author’s writing style enhance the overall reading experience?
- Were there any instances of foreshadowing or subtle hints that you noticed throughout the book? Discuss any plot twists or revelations that surprised you. How did these elements contribute to the story’s suspense?
- Analyze the growth and development of Opal and Arthur as characters. What challenges do they overcome, and how do these challenges contribute to their personal growth arcs? How do their individual journeys intersect and influence each other?
- The book explores themes of love, sacrifice, and the blurred line between good and evil. How are these themes represented in the relationships between the characters, especially Opal and Arthur?
- What did you think about the Gothic and spooky atmosphere of the book. How did the author create a sense of eeriness and tension throughout the story? What specific scenes or details added to the book’s spooky ambiance?
- The author incorporates elements of fantasy and romance into the narrative. How do these genres intersect, and how do they enhance the overall story?
- The book addresses social issues and prejudices, especially in the town of Eden. How do these issues impact the characters’ lives and choices? How does the story handle these themes, and what messages or lessons can readers take away from these portrayals?
- The ending of the book provides resolution but also leaves some questions unanswered. How did you feel about the conclusion? Were there any surprises or twists that caught you off guard?
Hope you enjoyed the book club discussion questions and reading guide for Starling House by Alix E. Harrow!
Here are some more of my book club recommendations related to this book:
A Haunting on the Hill by Elizabeth Hand
From award-winning author Elizabeth Hand comes the first-ever novel authorized to return to the world of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House—a “scary and beautifully written” (Neil Gaiman) new story of isolation and longing perfect for our present time.
Open the door . . . .
Holly Sherwin has been a struggling playwright for years, but now, after receiving a grant to develop her play Witching Night, she may finally be close to her big break. All she needs is time and space to bring her vision to life. When she stumbles across Hill House on a weekend getaway upstate, she is immediately taken in by the mansion, nearly hidden outside a remote village. It’s enormous, old, and ever-so eerie—the perfect place to develop and rehearse her play.
Despite her own hesitations, Holly’s girlfriend, Nisa, agrees to join Holly in renting the house for a month, and soon a troupe of actors, each with ghosts of their own, arrive. Yet as they settle in, the house’s peculiarities are made known: strange creatures stalk the grounds, disturbing sounds echo throughout the halls, and time itself seems to shift.
All too soon, Holly and her friends find themselves at odds not just with one another, but with the house itself. It seems something has been waiting in Hill House all these years, and it no longer intends to walk alone . . .
Midnight Is the Darkest Hour by Ashley Winstead
From the critically acclaimed author of In My Dreams I Hold A Knife and The Last Housewife comes Midnight is the Darkest Hour, a gothic Southern thriller about a killer haunting a small Louisiana town, where two outcasts―the preacher’s daughter and the boy from the wrong side of the tracks―hold the key to uncovering the truth.
For fans of Verity and A Flicker in the Dark, Midnight is the Darkest Hour is a twisted tale of murder, obsessive love, and the beastly urges that lie dormant within us all…even the God-fearing folk of Bottom Springs, Louisiana. In her small hometown, librarian Ruth Cornier has always felt like an outsider, even as her beloved father rains fire-and-brimstone warnings from the pulpit at Holy Fire Baptist.
Unfortunately for Ruth, the only things the townspeople fear more than the God and the Devil are the myths that haunt the area, like the story of the Low Man, a vampiric figure said to steal into sinners’ bedrooms and kill them on moonless nights. When a skull is found deep in the swamp next to mysterious carved symbols, Bottom Springs is thrown into uproar―and Ruth realizes only she and Everett, an old friend with a dark past, have the power to comb the town’s secret underbelly in search of true evil.
A dark and powerful novel like fans have come to expect from Ashley Winstead, Midnight is the Darkest Hour is an examination of the ways we’ve come to expect love, religion, and stories to save us, the lengths we have to go to in order to take back power, and the monstrous work of being a girl in this world.
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett
NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A curmudgeonly professor journeys to a small town in the far north to study faerie folklore and discovers dark fae magic, friendship, and love in the start of a heartwarming and enchanting new fantasy series.
Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party—or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people.
So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, muddle Emily’s research, and utterly confound and frustrate her.
But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones—the most elusive of all faeries—lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all—her own heart.
Feel free to distribute these discussion questions to your book club members before your meeting. Simply click the link below to download and print the PDF file.
Happy reading! ❤️